From David Gaughran:
I’m hosting a discussion today between two authors who are using creative ways to share audiences, something which has the happy side-effect of increasing their respective sales.
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Traditionally published authors may have to compete with each other ways that may not be relevant/important to self-publishers – like agents, deals, grants, prizes, or co-op. But self-publishers have nothing to fear from cooperating with authors they arenominally competing with, and everything to gain.
The market is so large that no writer will ever reach all the readers out there, and the odds of getting noticed can improve greatly with the right kind of cooperation – as many authors with box sets saw last year.
If you are still skeptical, consider this: Amazon’s recommendation engine can drive sales like nothing else. The Also Boughts (the strip of other titles under your book on its Amazon page) are central to that recommendation engine in ways that we only partly understand. What we do know is that they are key influences on all those emails which are sent to Amazon customers.
Did you ever have an unexplained bump in sales that couldn’t be tracked to a mention somewhere? There’s a reasonable chance you started appearing in the Also Boughts of a popular title in your genre, and then your book suddenly got recommended by email to a bunch of new readers in your target audience.
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Savvy authors are now pooling audiences in an attempt to influence their Also Boughts and get Amazon’s system to recommend their books to each other’s audiences. I noticed crime/thriller writers Matt Iden and Nick Stephenson doing this in interesting ways over the last few months, and invited them to spill the beans.
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Matt: So, some background. I first looked into what you were doing after I finally noticed the cover of your perma-free novel Wanted in my also-boughts. In retrospect, it was like the 29th time I’d seen it. Your covers are very distinctive and the branding is strong and consistent—no accident, I know—and something deep in my reptilian brain told me, You’ve seen this before. Maybe you should click on it?
Nick: Yeah, you know what they say: “twenty-nine times is the charm”. My marketing strategy revolves around annoying people until they buy. It seems to come naturally.
Matt: So I followed the trail to your author page, where your list of blog posts were about experiments in promoting, marketing, and unraveling the mysteries of Amazon placement and rankings. It was obvious you were using some different approaches, especially when it came to increasing discoverability in non-traditional ways.
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Nick: Damn straight. But I reckon, ask any “hobbyist” if they’d like to sell a few more books, I’m pretty sure they’d be happy to. I’ve spent the last couple of years figuring out what works, and the answer is gob-smackingly simple.
Get content. Tell people about content.
The “telling people” part is where most people struggle. But a lot of the work I’m doing with authors right now is helping them build up better ways to communicate with readers direct – rather than relying on Amazon and advertisers. And the results have been pretty incredible.
Matt: One particular thing that caught my eye was when you compiled some preliminary findings in a PDF report you shared (that probably formed the basis for your guide Supercharge Your Kindle Sales, which I was happy to blurb). It filled in a lot of gaps for me on keyword selection, rankings, and some other juicy bits I hadn’t seen treated quite that way anywhere else. I promptly told all of my blog people to go follow you and that really started our collaboration.
Nick: That was pretty cool of you! Putting together “Supercharge” was a lot of fun – it was cool to see two-years’ worth of experience jump out of my brain and onto the page. I was in the zone for a few days with that book. And I still get emails from people who’ve had great results, so it’s definitely been worth it from that perspective.
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Matt: Back to the collaboration, thing–this may be blindingly obvious, but self-pubbers are in a perfect position to treat other writers as collaborators, not competitors, considering the low price-point of most self-published books. This is especially clear when best-selling indies can sell a boxed set of twelve books for $.99. Traditionally published writers don’t have this advantage.
Nick: I think it’s from that old-school mentality that a trad-pub’s main audience is the casual / bestseller reader. The kind of people that pick up the latest Dan Brown in the airport, but won’t read anything else all year. I think the self-pubbers REAL advantage is that we understand we need to reach readers direct, and not just deal with publishers and agents. That shift in mentality puts us in our customers’ shoes. We know what our readers want, and we give it to them. THAT’S our killer advantage.
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Nick: Yeah, always. I think what’s good for one author is going to be good for everyone. Getting more people reading is the aim for me, even if they’re not my books! So, if I have a month where I’m not promoting anything, I’ll recommend other authors’ work that I think my readers will enjoy. I’m not “losing” sales. I’m building trust and connections.
Matt: A natural extension of that was to run some promotions together. I think the first was a coordinated email blast to our respective newsletters…at the time that meant about , what? 4,000 people saw both of our sale books? And you threw in an e-Ink Kindle reader to sweeten the pot.
Nick: Right. We sold 352 books from that email – and many of the people we emailed actually already owned copies. So that was a great result. Actually, apart from Bookbub, that’s a better result than pretty much any advertiser I can think of – and we didn’t have to pay anyone or jump through any hoops.
Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Anthea for the tip.